Disqualified Olympic Athletes Testing Positive for DMAA Point to Supplements

In a written submission, the Italian bobsledder William Frullani denied taking any prohibited substances and said "he presumed that the prohibited substance found in his urine was connected with nutritional supplements he used", according to a decision from the IOC Disciplinary Commission.

Sochi, RUSSIAA stimulant that has been linked to deaths and other serious illnesses in the United States was detected in two Olympic athletes who were disqualified from the games.

Over the weekend, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) revealed biathlete Evi Sachenbacher-Stehl of Germany had been disqualified after testing positive for methylhexaneamine, the controversial stimulant that goes by a number of names including dimethylpentylamine and DMAA.

The IOC also said 34-year-old William Frullani of Italy, a bobsledder, tested positive for the banned substance and was excluded from the games.

German Biathlete

Sachenbacher-Stehl told the IOC she didn't know how the stimulant entered her body. In a hearing before the IOC's Disciplinary Commission, she said she had been taking food supplements for at least one year at the advice of her nutritional advisor.  Sachenbacher-Stehl also said several recommended supplements that she had tested were "clean". However, she also noted taking additional supplements that had not been tested and she said relied on her nutritional adviser's opinion that the substances were "clean."

At the hearing, "she confirmed that she had heard about the risk of contamination involved with the use of food supplements, in particular that, even if some supplements tested did not reveal any prohibited substance, there is no guarantee that another batch of that same supplement may not be contaminated," according to the written decision from the IOC Disciplinary Committee.  

Michael Vesper, secretary general of the Deutscher Olympischer Sportbund (DOSB) and Chef de Mission, said the athlete had been tested several times before the Olympics and even on Feb. 11 in Sochi without any adverse finding.

Italian Bobsledder  

In a written submission, Frullani denied taking any prohibited substances and said "he presumed that the prohibited substance found in his urine was connected with nutritional supplements he used", according to the IOC Disciplinary Commission's written decision.

Frullani listed supplements he ingested in a written submission to the IOC, which did not respond to Natural Products INSIDER's request for comment. The written decision did not identify the products the athlete ingested.

Antonio Spataro, chief medical officer of the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI), noted at a hearing that not all ingredients are listed on supplement labels, citing "current lax regulations governing the nutritional supplement industry." 

CONI declared in a written submission that "the adverse analytical finding was probably related to nutritional supplements" and that the presence of the banned stimulant "is not listed as part of the ingredients of such supplements or commonly declared as natural geranium oil or extract.'"

Carlo Mornati, Chef de Mission of CONI, said he believed Frullani had ordered nutritional supplements that came from Britain or the United States, according to the decision.

DMAA Dangerous

Last year in the United States, FDA warned consumers that DMAA, an ingredient commonly used in weight loss, muscle building and performance enhancement supplements, was dangerous.

FDA said at the time it had received 86 reports of death and illnesses associated with supplements containing the stimulant. Several companies including Dallas-based USPlabs eventually agreed to remove DMAA supplements from the market.

The IOC and the World-Anti Doping Agency prohibit DMAA.

It's unclear whether the stimulants ingested by the Olympic athletes came from countries where the substance is legal or if the supplements were spiked with DMAA.

Sports Supplements Labeling

A company responsible for labeling a supplement should make it clear to athletes on the label that a legal dietary ingredient is on a banned substance list, said Steve Mister, president and CEO of the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), which represents supplement manufacturers and ingredient suppliers. Supplement firms also should ensure that athletes can readily identify a banned substance on a label, Mister said, noting that DMAA goes by so many different names.

Making explicit on supplement labels substances that are banned could become increasingly important for future Olympic athletes as the IOC steps up its sampling for prohibited substances.

During the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games, the IOC oversaw a record 2,667 blood and urine tests, exceeding a previous record (518 tests) that was set in Vancouver four years ago. 

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